HC Deb 30 January 1968 vol 757 cc1082-4
29. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs how many people were killed and injured in the recent disturbances in the island of Mauritius; how many were arrested; on what charges they were tried; how many were convicted, and what sentences were imposed; and if he will make a statement on the present state of law and order there.

33. Mr. Braine

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present situation in Mauritius.

39. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement about the situation in Mauritius and Rodrigues.

Mr. George Thomson

Since my statement to the House on 23rd January, the situation in Mauritus has improved. Although there has been some further violence and intercommunal tension remains, the last two nights have passed off quietly. In Rodrigues the situation is now reported to be calm.

As the details asked for are rather long, I will, with permission, circulate them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hughes

In connection with the last phrase in my Question, is law and order functioning, what is the state of the judiciary there and is the rule of law being observed?

Mr. Thomson

The judiciary is certainly functioning, and extremely well. I wish to pay tribute to those who are working in the present emergency.

Mr. Braine

Would the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, there has been a suggestion in the Press that insufficient forces have been available to contain the communal disorders. Is this so and, if not, is he satisfied that no further troops will he required? Secondly, as he is engaged in constitutional talks with the Mauritius Government—and, therefore, I would not ask him to give a categorical answer now—will he bear in mind the dangers of the island going into independence with a state of emergency and with communal disorders still continuing? Will he, therefore, consider the possibility—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must he brief.

Mr. Thomson

I think that the best answer I can give to the hon. Gentleman's first question is that H.M.S. "Euryalus" has now left Mauritius, which is an indication that the forces there are fully adequate to maintain law and order.

Mr. Fisher

Having recently been concerned in St. Kitts and Anguilla—and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the kind remarks he has made about my work there—may I ask whether he will inquire if there is any danger, when Mauritius becomes independent, of Rodrigues, which is only 350 miles away, declaring a similar U.D.I. against Mauritius? If there is that danger, which I hope there is not, will he say what steps can be taken to prevent it in advance?

Mr. Thomson

The disturbances in Rodrigues had, in the first instance, an economic rather than a political origin, although I do not exclude the fact that there were political factors involved. The situation is now calm, and I would not like at this stage to speculate on the future there.

Following are the details: I regret to say that the death roll has now risen to 24; 43 people have been seriously injured. Up to yesterday morning, 344 people had been arrested. Those against whom no substantive evidence was established have been released and the remainder are being brought to trail as soon as possible. First judgments were given yesterday. Sentences of up to five years' penal servitude were imposed on two persons convicted for possession of offensive weapons; 19 other persons are now before the court. I should like to pay tribute to the officers and men of H.M. Ships "Euryalus" and "Cambrian" and of the King's Shropshire Light infantry for the help they have given to the local security forces in dealing with the disorders. H.M.S. "Euryalus" has now left Mauritius.
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